5 Modern Myths People Need to Stop Believing

Boy holding bowl of jellybeans

Those of us living in the 21st century are frequently guilty of chronological snobbery. We roll our eyes and snicker at our ancestors because they believed things like putting leeches on people is a good way to cure illness. Or that witches float. However, we moderns are guilty of clinging to our own laughable myths. Here are five myths that modern people need to stop believing.

1. Myers-Briggs

Two housewives, a mother and daughter (Myers and Briggs), spent too much of their free time reading Carl Jung. Unfortunately, the two didn't understand Carl Jung, but that little "hiccup" didn't prevent them from inventing out of thin air the personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Worse, the MBTI has reached the level of sacrosanct for many people. You know which group has yet to embrace the MBTI? Actual psychologists. In fact, Carl Jung denounced the MBTI as based on unproven theories and, what's more, declared that neither Myers nor Briggs demonstrated any understanding of those theories anyway.

Here's a brief (and incomplete) rundown of the test's flaws:

  • It relies on the very unscientific methodology of self-reporting
  • The choices are presented positively (like a horoscope)
  • It relies too heavily on binary choices

Look, I understand the appeal of being able to neatly define yourself, but we humans are far too complex and contradictory to be distilled down by what amounts to a really long BuzzFeed quiz.

2. The Mozart Effect

Many parents swear that exposing their children to classical music aids in their kids' cognitive development. This belief was kicked into hyperdrive in 1993 after psychologist Frances Rauscher published her findings claiming that exposure to Mozart increased spatial task performance. The excitement was almost immediate, reaching the point that then Georgia governor Zell Miller "issued a bill in 1998, ensuring that every mother of a newborn would receive a complimentary classical music CD." That same year, Florida's state government "passed a law, requiring state-funded day-care centers to play at least one hour of classical music a day."

The problem is that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim. However, there are studies debunking it. As one such study says, "On the whole, there is little evidence left for a specific, performance-enhancing Mozart effect."

3.  Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief

The embrace of this myth causes far more damage than the previous two. Attempting to force people to grieve in inauthentic ways, proponents of Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief heap guilt onto grieving people. Not to mention that they don't allow them to grieve appropriately.

A recent study has revealed that grieving is a messy, all-over-the-map set of contradictory emotions. Of course, if you're familiar with Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief, then you know that most of us believe that there is a somewhat tidy, 5-step process to grieving. However, as Scientific American points out, quoting Russell Friedman, "no study has ever established that stages of grief actually exist, and what are defined as such can’t be called stages. Grief is the normal and natural emotional response to loss.... No matter how much people want to create simple, bullet-point guidelines for the human emotions of grief, there are no stages of grief that fit any two people or relationships."

4. After Eating, You Have to Wait to Go Swimming

People need to let go of this myth because there's no reason to continue torturing kids. And mothers have been torturing kids for generations because of the belief that after eating we have to wait at least 30 minutes before jumping back into the pool. However, as Duke Health says, "Apparently, mother does not know best when it comes to swimming after eating."

The myth persists, though, because it is true that swimmers can suffer from a mild cramp after eating. Please note the emphasis on "mild." Because, as Medicine Net points out, "the fact is that an episode of drowning caused by swimming on a full stomach has never been documented."

5. Sugar Makes Children Hyperactive

The notion that sugar causes children to be hyperactive began to envelop the public conscience in the 1970s after Dr. Benjamin Feingold's diet (named after himself) became popular. Although the Feingold Diet didn't mention sugar, parents began lumping it into the grouping of additives (food dyes and artificial flavors) that Feingold claimed increased hyperactivity in children. Hence, adults began depriving children of sugar.

While there are health reasons to limit the sugar intake of children, there is no evidence that sugar causes children to be hyperactive. However, I know how this works: moms who are convinced that sugar makes their children more hyperactive will ignore the science and choose to believe what they want to believe. As Yale Scientific says:

Why, then, does this myth still persist? It may be mostly psychological. As previously stated, experimentation has shown that parents who believe in a link between sugar and hyperactivity see one, even though others do not. Another possibility is that children tend to be more excited at events like birthday and Halloween parties where sugary foods are usually served. People may have confused proximity with correlation although the environment is probably more to blame than the food.